Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cooking: Ham

Growing up, I thought the spiral hams in the supermarket were the real deal. They were salty, briny, and tasted like a pork product. I loved them and still love them to this day. But it dawned on me recently that maybe I wasn't eating the real thing. Maybe there is something better out there. *gasp* Have I been bamboozled this whole time? There was only one way to find out and so I used my friends as guinea pigs...err, I mean I threw a dinner party for my friends.

Doing a little research, I found that the hams in the supermarket are smoked, cured, and injected with liquids. This keeps them moist and juicy when reheating. They're fully cooked and ready to serve. However, a real ham is hardly the same. In fact, they're only smoked. They're not ready to eat and takes hours upon hours to roast in the oven. Hmm, interesting indeed. So I took myself to the butcher to buy half of a bone-in ham. I scored the skin and roasted it in low heat for hours until the internal temperature reached 110oF.
Then I took it out and smothered it in a honey mustard and onion mixture. Back into the oven to caramelize.
When the ham is done, the honey mustard glaze formed a wonderful sweet crust on the outside. It enveloped a salty, porky hunk of meat. But before I could slice this baby, I had to let it rest.
So in the meantime, we had appetizers. I served some brie with petite toast, fried blue cheese stuffed olives, and peanuts. The olives was a spontaneous dish I decided to experiment with. I just breaded some cheese stuffed olives then fried them in oil. They came out AWESOME! Salt, briny, crunchy, gooey. It was everything that I had hoped for and more. I would definitely make these again, no doubt. They were really, really addicting.
And now dinner. I sliced up the ham into serving sizes making sure some pieces had the crust and some did not. Variety is key to a happy dinner party.
Mr. Peanut Head brought over a tray of pasta from Patsy's. It was sausage and broccoli pasta. This was very nice and complemented the ham well. Nice and light.
The pasta came with a side of dinner rolls which people used to make ham sandwiches.
I also made a side salad for some freshness. Gotta keep balanced, people!
Ms. Lollipop brought over some roasted butternut squash from Whole Foods. It was cooked with raisins and onions. A really nice seasonal dish. The sweetness countered the savory dishes well.
The meal was really great and people enjoyed the ham. I certainly did. We definitely pigged out but made sure to leave room for Mr. Matzo's pumpkin dessert. This spiced cake served a la mode was a really nice ending to a great meal. Light yet flavorful, sweet yet spiced.
The ham turned out so well that I am convinced I'll be making it again. It may as well make it into the rotation for Thanksgiving. Now I just have to find the time.

My recipe was adapted to the following recipe below:

Recipe Courtesy of epicurious.com and Bon Appetit

Holiday Ham with Riesling and Mustard
1 14–16-pound whole cured, smoked bone-in ham
2 cups sweet (Auslese) Riesling, divided
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
3 sprigs thyme plus 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Small pinch of kosher salt

Arrange a rack in lowest level of oven; preheat to 300°F. Leaving fat intact, remove outer rind from most of ham, leaving a band around the end of the shank bone. Score fat crosswise (do not cut into meat) on top of ham with parallel cuts spaced 1/2" apart. Place ham in a large roasting pan. Boil 1 cup Riesling and 7 cups water in a saucepan for 5 minutes. Pour into bottom of roasting pan. Bake ham, basting with pan juices occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of ham registers 110°F, 2 1/2-3 hours.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and thyme sprigs; cook, stirring often, until shallots are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in the remaining 1 cup Riesling. Return to stove. Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and transfer mixture to a food processor. Add thyme leaves, mustard, honey, pepper, and salt. Process until well blended.

Remove pan from oven and increase heat to 350°F. Using a pastry brush, spread Riesling mixture over ham. Return pan to oven and bake ham, tenting with foil if browning too quickly, until internal temperature registers 135°F and crust is golden brown, 15-30 minutes.

Transfer ham to a large platter. Let rest for 30 minutes before carving. Skim fat from pan juices, reheat, and pour juices into a medium pitcher; serve alongside.

Bon Appétit
December 2011
by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

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